Soft Drinks and Your Teeth

Soft Drinks & Your Teeth (1)

Are you one of the 48% of Americans that drink soda everyday? Not only did a recent Gallup poll find that almost half of Americans drink soda daily, but they found that the average amount consumed was 2.6 glasses a day! If you drink soda, does this sound like you? If you’re not a big soda person, do you drink other soft drinks daily?

Soft drinks, such as sodas, fruit juices, and sports drinks can have a negative impact on your overall and oral health. For starters, the regular consumption of soft drinks has been associated with health conditions such as type-2 diabetes and obesity. Additionally, soft drinks can also cause problems with your teeth. 

tooth sitting atop sugar cubes

This is because the majority of soft drinks contain two damaging ingredients: acid and sugar. Many sodas, fruit juices, and sports drinks contain either citric or phosphoric acid. When they are consumed, they cause your saliva to become more acidic than normal. In fact, research has suggested that a single sip can make your saliva acidic for up to 30 minutes after consumption. The increased acidity can cause the enamel to erode or become weaker and thinner. Unfortunately, sugar-free soft drinks still generally contain enough acid to be detrimental to tooth enamel. 

Sugar is another detrimental component in soft drinks. Sugar causes two problems. First, it feeds the bacterial populations in your mouth so that they not only survive, but reproduce to create more bacteria. Second, once the bacteria consume sugar, they digest it into an acidic waste product that exposes your teeth to even more acid. In fact, dental cavities usually occur as a result of bacteria accumulating in one area and attacking the tooth with acid until the enamel erodes. 

Therefore if you must have soft drinks, there are a few key steps you should take to decrease the risk of dental erosion and tooth decay: 

Practice Moderation

One of the best steps you can take is to limit the amount of soft drinks you consume. Ultimately, the less acid and sugar you are exposing your teeth to, the better. Additionally, refraining from frequent soft drink consumption has a variety of other benefits to your overall health. 

soft drink with a straw

Use a Straw

Another way to reduce the impact of soft drinks is to consume them with a drinking straw. This helps to limit the amount of contact they have with your teeth and decreases the amount of acid and sugar your teeth are exposed to. 

Drink Fast

The damage done to your teeth begins with the first step and continues until about 20-30 minutes after your last sip. Drinking faster reduces the total amount of time your teeth are exposed to excess acids and sugars. 

Rinse Your Mouth

Once you have finished your soft drink, it is a good idea to swish some water around your mouth to rinse out any remaining acid and sugar. This will also help your saliva return to its normal pH. 

Get Regular Dental Cleanings

Since soft drink consumption increases your risk of tooth decay and enamel erosion, it is imperative that you schedule regular dental exams and cleanings so your dentist can make sure your teeth are healthy and free from decay. 

Overall, soft drinks pose a threat to your overall and oral health. Both the acids and sugars they contain can cause enamel erosion and tooth decay. While the best strategy is to discontinue or decrease soft drink consumption, there are a few other steps you can take to reduce the risks associated with soft drinks. Ultimately, however, one of the other best strategies is to see your dentist regularly for dental cleanings. 

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Dr. Stephen Clark graduated from Northwestern Dental School in 1969 and earned his California Dental License in 1970. During his over 50 years serving the Long Beach area, he has provided effective dental care to many citizens.